Back in the garage 

White Mystery cuts to rock's core

After listening to several tracks from its forthcoming Telepathic, I can say confidently that White Mystery is my favorite nuclear-family garage duo with "White" in the name. Also, I hate the White Stripes. Whether these two opinions are related—and whether merely having an opinion about the White Stripes in this context makes me old—will depend on whether you think garage is a real thing.

It is possible that one guitarist and one drummer, ideally related by blood, constitute the natural unit of rock and roll. This hypothesis satisfies the project of punk rock, which is to achieve the loudest possible expression of feeling with the fewest possible number of elements. It also reflects rock's growing status as our generation's jazz—a once-popular form in which the people who want to play it now threaten to outnumber the people who want to listen to it. Soon, the best venue for rock may literally be someone's garage.

click to enlarge White Mystery
  • White Mystery

White Mystery is perfectly adapted to that model: It looks great, it is loud, and it's just a little silly. It is possible that Alex White and Francis Scott Key White are not their actual names, just as it is possible that the lyrics "party with my friends in a psychedelic meltdown / Bigfoot, baby, you know how to rock it out" do not reflect their actual sentiments. Their loose snare drumming and up-down guitar riffs are a little out of synch, also probably on purpose. The vocals are alternately crisp and blown out, and their hair is incredible. The whole production is a distillation of the most vital elements of rock, or a pitch-perfect simulacrum of same.

So which is it? You can't be raw and calculated. Has White Mystery pared itself down to rock's pungent core, or has it merely ironized the conventions of the genre? By the same token, is garage a return to rock's visceral roots, or is it the last spasm of a dying form?

It's impossible to sound authentic once you know what authenticity sounds like. White Mystery is rock in the most modern sense: a little self-conscious, faced with the daunting task of surprising an audience that is waiting to be startled, and very loud. Its gambit is that the last element will make up for the other two, or at least obliterate it for three minutes at a time.

White Mystery, Organs and Missoula's Magpies, Boys and Haunted Maze play an all-ages show at the VFW Wed., April 10, at 9 PM. $5/$7 for those under 21.

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